Thoughts on Purity

The seventh commandment is all about sacred relationships and honoring one’s spouse. We discussed yesterday how this applies to everyone. You don’t have to be married to know that we ought to keep our hearts pure at all times! Sins like lust can affect so many different people, and if we are being honest with ourselves, it is often a daily battle to maintain a pure heart. Lust in particular is such a widespread problem in our world today because of how common it is in daily life.

At the root of lust is a simple, yet dangerous and sinful belief. It is the assumption that we should treat other people as objects.

Ideally, we would all realize that everyone is loved by God and equal in this regard. Every one of us is broken and in need of God’s grace. All people have the freedom to chose Christ. But instead of seeing others as created in God’s image, the impurity of lust tempts us to view them as objects for our own use. Rather than viewing another person as a human being, when we treat them as an object, we come to believe they are less than human.

This objectification occurs anytime we forsake the covenant of marriage. Obviously this is the case for someone with a lot of power taking advantage of  someone else–perhaps a business executive or politician who believes that moral rules don’t apply and he or she bullies someone to keep quiet. Objectification is also at play when a spouse begins to look to another person for gratification–whether that be a physical or emotional affair–believing that the “cheated-on” spouse is simply an object with no use.

And tragically, perhaps the most obvious example of objectification today is how sex is depicted in media. We see this used on commercials to sell products. It is featured on television. Perhaps most damaging, however, is the commodification of sex on the internet. We discussed issues like pornography in our Social Issues bible study last September. I figured it would be worth restating some sobering statistics about lust as it relates to internet media:

  • Over 30% of total internet content is pornographic.
  • Children are often exposed to these kinds of sites as early as 10-12 years old.
  • The majority of adult content features aggression, verbal abuse, or physical abuse. Women are usually the victims of violence and humiliation.
  • Adult website usage is linked to anti-social behavior, loss of brain matter, and narcissistic tendencies.
  • There is a strong link between child exploitation, human trafficking, and the adult entertainment industry.

For more information and research on this topic, check out Enough Is Enough, an online safety advocacy group.

If you or someone you know is struggling with internet lust in particular, here are a list of resources:

  • Fight the New Drug– A new organization supported by even a few celebrities to raise awareness of pornography addiction.
  • Covenant Eyes– An accountability program one can easily install to help monitor internet usage.
  • X3 Church– An outreach organization to help people exit the adult entertainment industry.

Lust is a very difficult topic in our world today. It can be very tough to honor God’s plan for the intimate, holy covenant of marriage. But above all else, remember that absolutely everyone is created in God’s image. God wants you to have a pure heart and to avoid sins like lust and objectification.


Anger vs. Peace

Last week while I was at the weekly prison ministry down at the Tucker Unit, I talked with a young man for about a half hour about some spiritual struggles he was having and issues with his upbringing. My conversation reminded me of what we discussed on Sunday about killing, anger, and the sixth commandment.

This young man (we’ll call him John) grew up in rural northern Arkansas and was essentially raised by white supremacists. From an early age he was told to judge other people based off of appearances. Countless family members and friends of his had been involved in illicit activity, from weapons and drug trafficking to even murder. He talked about how a relative of his had killed someone because they “looked” hispanic.

Fortunately, a few years ago John had a conversion experience and came to know God’s all-inclusive love. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is–God loves us all equally and invites us to become a part of his family. John was also being mentored by two African American inmates in the program and growing in his faith each day. He would actually reach out to folks he knew from his previous life and try to evangelize them (even if they responded by insulting, threatening, or disowning him).

During my conversation with John, I noticed something very important about the sixth commandment and Jesus’ teachings in Matthew’s gospel:

Anger and killing are often on the same spectrum.

If we never address anger in our hearts, the outcome will never be pretty. Either we will become jaded and calloused to the world around us, or even worse, we might act on that anger and harm someone. This was clear in John’s family and their friends. They indulged in racially-motivated anger, believing that folks with nonwhite skin were to blame for all the world’s problems. And in the most extreme cases, this anger actually lead to murder itself. Personal hate produced more hate, and often that produced “public” sins of violence and terrorism.

“A Peaceable Kingdom” by Linda Mears

As Christians, we subscribe to a completely different reality in God’s kingdom. I’m so grateful that John began to realize this as he pursued Jesus Christ. In our world filled with violence, we always must remember prophecies like Isaiah 2:4:

God will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

In other words, the fullness of God’s kingdom has absolutely no hatred, violence, war, death, or destruction. Everyone will finally experience the hope and resurrection only Jesus can offer. When we finally live in God’s presence, we will experience the indescribable peace of Christ. There will be neither violence nor anger in the age to come.

The sixth commandment sounds so simple, yet it cuts to the heart of how we oftentimes view the world. We are tempted to think of our earthly struggles as ones that can be solved through violence. Our own personal struggles with violence might not be as extreme as John’s case, but we still struggle with it on a daily basis. As Christians, you and I are called to put our full faith and hope in Jesus alone.

Killing someone will not bring resolution. Neither will winning a war or even hitting someone back. Even indulging in anger will just leave you feeling unsatisfied in sin.

Jesus is the only thing that can fix our broken world.

Your Parental Toolbox

Danny Silk is a pastor from California who specializes in Christian counseling. I’ve studied quite a bit of his material as part of a team building group I was in during college. I also often use his premarital counseling material with young couples, too. You can explore more of his organization Loving on Purpose by clicking here.

One of the crucial things I gleaned from Silk’s teaching is how he approaches human development. He argues that everyone has a toolbox, so to speak, filled with “tools” for interacting with one another. These include anything from conflict resolution to how we communicate love. Ideally, we would have a healthy, complete toolbox.

Image result for parent child

We received these “tools” from our parents and other adults we encountered from a very early age. We watch and observe how people interact with others. We see how a father treats his spouse, and vice versa. We see how a parent or relative interacts with a child. We learn about consequences when we are disciplined. And we learn from all these observations over the years. For example, when a parent treats a stranger with kindness, we gain that “tool” for ourselves–hopefully we remember in the future to imitate what we saw and be friendly to people we meet!

Image result for angry parents drawing

The problem, however, is that our toolboxes are always incomplete or deficient in some way or another. This problem obviously arises with dysfunctional families. Perhaps a mother did not control her anger too well, so we were left with a deficient “toolset” and are unable to control our emotions. Maybe a father always had a negative outlook on life, so he gave us a tendency to be worrisome or fearful. If we saw parents in our childhood resolve conflict through screaming and throwing dishes against the wall, there is a chance we might come to think of that act as “normal” for our future life. If we don’t develop healthy emotional tools, we are stuck with a broken toolbox.

Image result for sad child drawing

And perhaps most notably, our emotional and psychological toolboxes become lacking when we have absent parent figures, too. If a father or mother was never around, children tend to look for other parental figures to learn about the world–whether that be from a grandparent, neighbor, relative, or even a depiction of parenthood on television or a movie. Sometimes, we are successful in gaining these missing tools from an absent mom or dad. Other times, we continue to struggle with how to communicate with people if the problem was never addressed.

Think about that for a moment and ask yourself these reflective questions…

What was my childhood like? Did I learn “good” things from my family? Were my parents supportive? Did my mother and father teach me about faith in Christ?

How did my parents treat me? How did they treat one another? Did they live out a healthy relationship? Or were did they deal with problems in an unhealthy way?

How did my parents fall short? Were one or both of them absent? How did that affect my upbringing? Did another parental figure help me? Or did I struggle with an incomplete emotional toolbox?

This all relates to the 5th commandment of honoring our father and mother. If our parent has given us great tools for our life’s toolbox, then that is obviously cause to be extremely thankful. As I mentioned yesterday, we don’t exactly live in a Jesus-centered culture, and have not been living in one for quite some time.

And this also impacts how we deal with broken parents, too. If our parent gave us lousy tools to face the world, we need to recognize where they fell short. It is important to identify these areas of sin from our family past in order to not repeat them again. Abuse is a major example of this in our world today, so it is important to address broken parts of our past.

Even if you had a picture perfect childhood with involved, faithful parents, we still often struggle with having broken or missing tools in our emotional and psychological health. Sometimes this is due to the mistakes of a mother or father. Other times we break them ourselves or refuse to put into practice what we’ve learned! The point is that we all need to consider what our toolbox looks like.

The good news is that despite our broken toolboxes, despite all our brokenness, and despite our struggles… God still loves us and accepts us. Keeping the 5th commandment means we realize that God is our heavenly parent. And the most important thing we could ever do to honor our earthly parents is to pray for, love, and share God’s grace with them.

Giving God Your Time

The fourth commandment to keep the Sabbath is all about how we offer up our time to God. As Christians, we know we ought to live our entire life dedicated to God. That includes obvious things like giving our heart to God. It also means dedicating practical things like our finances by being generous towards people in need. But dedicating ourselves to God also includes using our time in a Godly manner, too. We usually forget about this important resource!

Taking time out of your week to worship God is a crucial part in keeping the fourth commandment. We are called to have this sacred time of rest in order to properly honor God with our work. As I preached on Sunday, we can obviously do that by worshipping on Sunday morning. But if you’re like me, however, chances are we need that regular Sabbath time. Daily devotion to God is obviously ideal, but chances are, we often struggle to make this a weekly, monthly, or otherwise infrequent commitment.

This means setting aside time to intentionally and directly praise God each day. It often helps to do some sort of devotional, pray with family, or even just sit in silence for five minutes. Regardless of how we practice Sabbath, the point is that we ought to budget our time, so to speak, to prioritize and remember our relationship with God.

Abraham Heschel was a Jewish theologian from the mid 20th century who often wrote on the importance of the Sabbath. His own work has influenced how I approach the fourth commandment. Here are some quotes from books he wrote about Sabbath rest:

  • “The Sabbath is the most precious present humankind has received from the treasure house of God. All week long we think God is too far away… But on the sabbath, we can meet God.”
  • “Zion is in ruins, Jerusalem lies in the dust. All week there is only hope of redemption. But when the Sabbath is entering the world, man is touched by a moment of actual redemption; as if for a moment the spirit of the Messiah moved over the face of the earth.”
  • “He who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screech of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling his own life. He must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man. Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self.”
  • “Unless you learn how to relish in the taste of sabbath, you will be unable to enjoy the taste of eternity in the world to come.”

Sabbath is when we can experience God by setting aside time for rest. Honoring God with how we spend the time in our week is something we often overlook. Yet it is so important for us to seize this opportunity for divine intimacy, otherwise we risk drifting away from God.

Godly Language

When I began my seminary studies in 2012, I started volunteering for a Houston nonprofit that helped at-risk youth. One of their major initiatives was to mentor young men in a juvenile detention facility each week. I was paired with a young man who was 15–we’ll call him Rob.

Rob had been expelled from school because of drug possession and fighting. Before being “locked up” he was considering joining a gang, or a “clique” as it was known in this part of town. To top things off, he had a troubled family life at home–a mother who was working multiple jobs, and his biological father would be in prison for several decades because of a violent crime. The goal of the mentoring program was to help these youth before they got themselves into even further trouble before becoming adults.

For about a year I met with Rob for an hour each week. We would talk, debrief the previous week, and play card games. My friendship with this young man was very impactful for many reasons–one of which I’ll share as it relates to the third commandment.

During one of our sessions, we started to talk about our use of language. Rob was starting to get serious about his faith and wanted to deepen his relationship with God. But the tough thing was that for most of his life he had been surrounded by curse words and derogatory language. Cellmates used them just down the hall at the detention center. He was accustomed to acting out in school in order to get attention. He heard people cuss all the time. His father even verbally abused him, in addition to many traumatizing years of physical abuse, too. Language had been a very damaging thing in Rob’s life.

As I listened to Rob talk about his history with cursing, he told me that he felt God’s conviction on his life about the kinds of words he used. God was putting it on his heart to possibly change the way he spoke each day…

“When I cuss, I feel like I’m not being articulate,” he told me, after a moment of revelation, “I’m just using worthless words that don’t really do much. Sure, others might use them, but I don’t think I’m supposed to.” We talked about how many times, when we use ugly words, they don’t really “add” anything to what we try to communicate. We often end up just sounding like we want to put other people down.

It was so inspiring to see this young man realize the power words have on our life.

Misusing God’s name can look like a lot of different things. Of course, using “God” or “Jesus Christ” while we are angry are pretty obvious examples. But anytime we carelessly use words, we break this important commandment. Anytime we use our speech to tear other people down, we take God’s name in vain. The only way we ought to speak of God each day must be to bring about God’s love to others.

An Idolatry Test

Yesterday we explored how idolatry can be very common in our world today. Social media, personal pride, or material possessions only scratch the surface of possible idols with which we may struggle. Anything other than Jesus Christ has the potential to become an idol for us. It doesn’t matter how “good” or “normal” something might be. The danger comes when we worship created things over our creator.

This is such a difficult thing for us to wrestle with because most of the idols I mentioned during my sermon are often normal, everyday things. It is perfectly fine to own a cell phone or have a Facebook page. It is perfectly fine to maintain a bank account and properly control your personal finances. It is perfectly fine to fly the American flag. Yet idolatry comes when we fixate on that particular object or idea, rather than worshipping God alone. If we trust in phones, Facebook, bank accounts, or flags more than we do in our relationship with Christ, we commit idolatry.

If you are worried about something becoming an idol in your life, there are usually warning signs. Here is what I have noticed about our human sinfulness as it relates to idolatry. I’ve seen this in my own life, as well as the testimony of other Christians, too. You might be struggling with an idol if…

  1. You spend a large amount of time obsessing over something. How much time and attention do you give this thing? If it is all-consuming, chances are that it is an idol! If it feels like it overwhelms us and demands our attention, then we often elevate that object and worship it instead of Jesus. Work, hobbies, and collectables often falls into this category. It is so important to remember to keep these things secondary and to keep Jesus #1.
  2. You have unquestioning devotion for something. Idols often demand our devotion above all else. If you frequently get defensive about a particular issue in your life, chances are, that issue may be an idol. If you also notice that other, more important areas of your life potentially suffer, then that might be a sign of idolatry. We usually get defensive about insignificant things, rather than the most significant thing: our relationship with Christ. We need to keep the order right and have a sense of humility!
  3. You’ve already noticed other idols in your life. Just like any other sin, if we have unrecognized idolatry in life, that often produces more idols. This cycle is clearly a problem with our obsession and worship of personal image in our world. If we devote our entire existence to maintaining a flawless facade of our personal life, then we will likely embrace other idols to support that addiction. For instance, if we want others to envy us, chances are we will use something like Facebook to promote our image and to pretend as if everything is perfect in life. Idols often lead to more troubles with other idols.
  4. You are willing to compromise your morals. If you are willing to lie, cheat, steal, or do some other sin to take part in something, then chances are it is an idol for you. If we become trapped in idolatry, chances are we will rush to defend those idols no matter if it means we throw our sense of morality out the window. This is particularly clear with idols like money–people often struggle with dishonesty if it means that there will be more material possessions for them. Idols usually lead to other kinds of sin.

As I’ve emphasized all along, anything other than God can have the potential to become an idol–even “good” things! The point of the second commandment is for us to become away of these idols and realize that the only true object of our worship must be God alone.

Is Jesus Lord For You?

Accounts of early church history often vary, but one well-documented challenge Christians faced during the first few centuries had to do with something called the emperor cult. Back then, people in the Roman Empire would regularly worship their leader, Caesar. They believed him to be a divine figure. Leaders also reinforced this, often claiming to be related to the gods. This presented an obvious challenge for early Christians since they instead worshipped Christ alone. To worship the Roman leader was completely counter to following Jesus Christ.

A classic example of believing Roman leaders were divine is how the they minted coins back in the day. Currency often depicted the head of a Roman ruler, as well as words like peace, security, or protection inscribed upon them. The above coin from an emperor named Caracalla has the word security on it with a reclined figure on the back. In the ancient context this arguably presented a message of something like, “You have security and comfort, all because of me.” That’s how it would have sounded to people in the ancient world.

Another example is Philip II, where on the back of the coin, the emperor is holding a globe in his right hand. This signified the belief that the Roman emperor ruled and controlled the entire world. (Thats a rather bold statement to make, Mr. Caesar!)

In addition to coins, emperor worship was often a very public practice among the Romans. A common tradition among citizens of the Empire was to enter into a local temple, burn a pinch of incense, and recite the phrase, “Caesar is lord.” This seemingly simple phrase was actually a sort of “test” to see who was loyal to the political and religious system, versus who might be a problem.

Instead of saying “Caesar is lord,” Christians had their own subversive phrase: “Jesus is Lord.” This is found throughout several passages in the New Testament, perhaps most notably in Romans 10:9–“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  As you can probably guess, Christians were often in a bit of trouble during this time, simply because they did not go along with this practice. Persecution was well-documented during this time, where following Jesus might actually cost you your life. It was a dangerous game to reject Caesar and worship Christ alone.

We all need a reminder of this straightforward confession of the Christian faith. Jesus is Lord. Caesar isn’t the true lord.

There are actually many “caesars” in our life–this is not just limited to pagan figures in ancient history. Caesar ultimately constituted a false god, and on Sunday, we explored how these are still all around us. In my seminary studies, I read about many New Testament scholars and theologians who have explored this concept further. What are the false gods or “caesars” in our life? What is demanding our worship? What do we often forsake God for? Think about these confessions of faith for a moment. Perhaps one or a couple resonate with you…

If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not.

If Jesus is Lord, then all those other false gods in my life are not.

If Jesus is Lord, then my favorite sports team is not.

If Jesus is Lord, then my desire for popularity is not.

If Jesus is Lord, then Republican, Democrat, or Independent political leaders are not.

If Jesus is Lord, then my family is not.

If Jesus is Lord, then my pride and desire to always be right are not.

If Jesus is Lord, then fear is not.

If Jesus is Lord, then my money and resources are not.

If Jesus is Lord, then I am not.

Jesus is Lord. He alone must be the object of our devotion and worship.

It is so incredibly tempting to deny Jesus’ lordship with how we live our life. While we might not “deny” Jesus as our savior with our words, often our actions prove otherwise. We serve the false gods of personality, power, and personal resources rather than God alone. Anything we worship other than God is indeed a false god. Is Jesus truly Lord for you?

A Recap of Revelation’s 7 Churches

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed diving into Revelation 2-3 over the past seven weeks. As I noted before, we often overlook these very important chapters at the beginning and skip to the cosmic stuff that happens throughout the rest of the book. Yet Jesus gave seven clear, concise, and relevant messages to these ancient churches. In many ways, we still struggle with the same things they struggled with. We also may be gifted in the way these churches were, too. The important thing to glean from this study is that each church can speak life into your walk with Christ.

Here is a summary of what we have talked about for each week since August…

  1. Ephesus: Forgetting Your First Love– Christians in the Ephesian church were doing alright, except that they had forgotten what church was all about. Everything we do must be about Jesus Christ. He is the reason we have hope and are called to reach out in love to other people. Yet tragically in many churches, Christians today struggle with the temptation to make Christianity about something else other that Jesus. We all need to be reminded of the church of Ephesus to never forget our first love–Jesus Christ.
  2. Smyrna: Joy in Poverty– God never promised us worldly riches. God did promise us something much better, however, with a transformed life through Christ. As Jesus put it in Matthew’s gospel, we are called to store up treasures in heaven. So many times in our world we think that having more stuff will fill some void in our soul. Yet the church of Smyrna teaches us to have God’s joy in times of poverty, and even in times of persecution and hardship.
  3. Pergamum: Beware of False Teachers– Pergamum struggled with false teachings in their church community. The specific teachings of this church are difficult to pin down, but most likely dealt with sexual immorality and misunderstanding the role of God’s grace in faith. Likewise, we looked at modern day false teachings and how it is not true that God loves some more than others, or that church is a place for people who have it all figured out!
  4. Thyatira: False Prophetess– Just like Pergamum, Thyatira dealt with its fair share of false teachings, most notably with someone Jesus called Jezebel. We looked back at the Old Testament in 1-2 Kings to see Jezebel’s tragic story of what happens when we continually reject God’s guidance. Thyatira warns us to seek repentance and pursue Jesus.
  5. Sardis: It’s Time to Wake Up– Sardis was the sleepy church! Jesus commanded them to wake up, and likewise cautions us to wake up today as well. God calls us to wake up from sin and death, and to realize we need salvation in the first place. God calls us to wake up to Jesus’ mission of redeeming all creation. And God also calls us to wake up and live life to the fullest by being fully present through a relationship with Christ.
  6. Philadelphia: Steadfast in Faith– The church of Philadelphia taught us that faith often takes time and endurance. In other words, we cannot rush it or suddenly have everything fixed. Just like a slow-cooked gumbo, we need the time to soak in the teachings of the gospel, as well as form Christlike character as we interact with our world.
  7. Laodicea: Dangers of Being Lukewarm– We often feel neither hot nor cold with our faith. We often assume (just like the Christians in Laodicea) that we are too good for God’s grace. Likewise, God wants to energize us and give us a passion for Godly living.

Take some time today to think about which church you resonate with. Do any of the struggles of a particular church seem applicable to you? What is Jesus speaking to you that might be found in these scripture passages?

Which Way are You Going?

As we wrestle with this topic of endurance and faithfulness, I think it is important to point out one thing. Everything we do can either draw us closer to or push us further away from God. The authors of scripture often noted this in how we form our character as humans. People develop righteousness when they turn towards God and allow God to renew them. Unrighteousness develops when people stubbornly refuse to take the steps towards God’s kingdom.

Jesus noted this in the church of Philadelphia with how they had endured many tribulations and kept the faith. All those years that Philadelphia continued to persist and focus on God’s love produced an admirable faith–so commendable that Jesus did not scold them as a church like he did other churches in Revelation!

Think about that for a moment. Everything we do either brings us closer to God, or it pushes us further away. In many ways, our faith journey is a lot like taking steps. We don’t suddenly arrive at the final destination–whether that be heaven or a life that looks like Jesus. We don’t get there overnight. It takes time to develop a Christlike spirit. It takes time to have Godly character and attitude. It can even take a lifetime to practice being a disciple of Jesus over and over again, day in and day out.

In my interviews to become a Methodist pastor, I once heard a story from one of my mentors. (If you’ve ever been around the United Methodist Church for a long time, perhaps this Wesleyan theme of perfection might sound familiar.)

John Wesley, the great evangelist and founder of our denomination, had a question he would ask people as he preached the gospel hundreds of years ago. He would ask them: “Are you going on to perfection?” The correct and hopeful answer is obviously, “Yes, I am moving towards the direction of perfection.”

Well, a young pastor many years ago was going through the pastor ordination process and he was asked this very question by the board of ministry: Are you going on to perfection?

This young man thought about it for a moment and I can only guess what was going on in his mind based off of his answer. He probably thought to himself, Going on to perfection? Well, nobody is perfect, so why on earth would I say yes? I know I’ll just sin and sin again each and every day! So he boldly told the committee with a smirk, “No, I’m not going to move on towards perfection.”

An older pastor in attendance with many years of wisdom asked in response, “Then where are you moving towards? Imperfection? Hell? Satan?”

The point is that we are called to move on toward perfection. We are called to continually strive towards it. Even if we fail, we must always trust in and follow Jesus. Only he can change us from the inside out to make us perfected in God’s divine love.

How are you taking steps towards God? How do you struggle with temptation to go the other way? We all take various steps in life, and if we are not careful, we might find ourselves journeying in the opposite direction of God’s kingdom.

Never forget that every action you take in life either brings you closer to or farther away from Jesus.

Living Well

I attended a Baptist church for about 3 and a half years while in college called UBC in Waco, TX. I had been raised in the Methodist church, but did not really connect with my university’s Wesley Foundation or anything like that at the time. My time at UBC was very influential and in many ways actually helped me to discover God’s calling on my life for pastoral ministry.

While at UBC, I learned about one of the founding pastors of the church, Kyle Lake, who had such a passion for reaching people disconnected from the church. I remember hearing stories about him asking various Baptist organizations for money to start this church plant, and the older pastors (dressed in very formal suits) who were in charge of these committees broke down in tears because they realized what a passion he had to reach younger generations–perhaps even their own children and grandchildren who had drifted away from Christianity.

Kyle died during an electrocution accident while performing a baptism on Sunday morning in 2005. This was before my time at Baylor and UBC, but his legacy obviously lived on in the life of the church. After his tragic and untimely death, someone from the church found a copy of what was supposed to be the sermon he was planning to preach that day. Here’s how that sermon was going to end:

Live. And Live Well.
BREATHE. Breathe in and Breathe deeply. Be PRESENT. Do not be past. Do not be future. Be now.
On a crystal clear, breezy 70 degree day, roll down the windows and FEEL the wind against your skin. Feel the warmth of the sun.
If you run, then allow those first few breaths on a cool Autumn day to FREEZE your lungs and do not just be alarmed, be ALIVE.
Get knee-deep in a novel and LOSE track of time.
If you bike, pedal HARD… and if you crash then crash well.
Feel the SATISFACTION of a job well done—a paper well-written, a project thoroughly completed, a play well-performed.
If you must wipe the snot from your 3-year old’s nose, don’t be disgusted if the Kleenex didn’t catch it all… because soon he’ll be wiping his own.
If you’ve recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE. And Grieve well.
At the table with friends and family, LAUGH. If you’re eating and laughing at the same time, then might as well laugh until you puke. And if you eat, then SMELL. The aromas are not impediments to your day. Steak on the grill, coffee beans freshly ground, cookies in the oven. And TASTE. Taste every ounce of flavor. Taste every ounce of friendship. Taste every ounce of Life. Because it is most definitely a Gift.

In John 10:10 we find the same kind of idea in the words of Jesus Christ. He promised that he came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Jesus wants us to come alive and see the world through the beautiful lens of God’s everlasting love. That means savoring each and every moment and realizing the true gift God has given us. God’s grace can be found in so many places.

As we saw with the church of Sardis in Revelation 3 this past Sunday, God wants us to wake up. God is all about waking us up and allowing us to come alive in Christ. When we truly embrace God’s love, our entire world is flipped upside-down. Through that precious relationship, we discover what it means to live well.